Louis Dupuis

Coureur De Bois

William O. Dupuis
Boylston, Massachusettes

(reproduced and posted by
Dan Brennan
with the author's permission, March 2,1998)

French Canadian & Acadian

Genealogical Review

 Vol. III, #2

Summer, 1971

Introduction

_____Attempting to tread the paths of a man who passed this way over 250 years ago is both thrilling and nostalgic. And when that man is the patriarch of your family, then the task becomes a labor of affection and personal satisfaction. The life of Louis Dupuis dit Parisien is filled with adventure, tragedy, danger and human frailty. The object of this genealogical study is not to pass moral judgement on this early pioneer but to chronicle his life -- the life of one who, in his own humble way, contributed to the history of his country and founded a family whose members now inhabit both Canada and the United States.

 In the beginning

_____Although there are no verifying documents, we can, using secondary sources, safely assume that Louis Dupuis dit Parisien was born in Paris, France in 1658, the year before the "Sun King", Louis XIV would come of age.

 _____He was the son of Guillaume Dupuis and Marie Maudemé. Guillaume was a lawyer and the Collector of Fines for the Abbey of St-Germain-des-Prés. The exact locale where Louis first saw the light of day is not known but perhaps we can speculate that he was born and grew up in the house on the rue du Four which begins on the Boulevard St-Germain almost across from the Abbey.1 Unfortunately neither the Abbey nor the parish church of Saint Sulpice can provide us with any documentary evidence concerning his birth or his youth.2

 _____Louis grew up during the age of Molière, LaFontaine and Madame de Sévigny when France was the greatest nation on earth and her culture second to none in all of Europe. Guillaume most assuredly provided his son with some education seeing that he was himself a man of some academic achievements. In all documentation to which Louis was later a party, he is always said to have been able to both read and sign the various deeds and contracts. Why did Louis decide to leave his home-land and his loved ones for the wilderness of the New World? If we may use the vents of his later life as supporting evidence, we can hypothesize that a prime factor in such a decision would have been an almost irresistible spirit of adventure if not a genuine wander-lust. Unfortunately, whatever the reasons, they perished with him, unrecorded for his posterity.

 _____Equally impossible to document is the exact time of his arrival in La Nouvelle France , a situation which is shared with many French Canadian families. At best we are able to approximate that he arrived between 1682 and the middle of 1687. He is not mentioned in the Canadian census of 1681 as recorded in Benjamin Sulte's work3 and the first verifiable document which bears any reference to him is his marriage contract.4 He is recorded as being "a soldier of the garrison" of Quebec city. With the nomination of Colonel Jacques Denonville as Governor of New France in 1685, a considerable number of French soldiers called les troupes de la Marine.5 were brought to Canada to help subdue the Iroquois Indians. Was Louis Dupuis a member of one of the regiments? Did he see action in the Lake Ontario expedition? Alas, there are no documents to answer these queries. Certainly, he did make a decision to remain, as did many other soldiers during this period. Thus was to begin the Dupuis family in New France.

 Mademoiselle Dubeau

_____Probably in the later half of 1687, Louis Dupuis met and was, as one writer phrased it, "overcome by the charms" of a certain Mademoiselle Barbe Dubeau. She was the daughter of Toussaint Dubeau (1641-1693), a shoemaker in the Basse-Ville of Québec City, and Margurite Damy (1630-1677). Born in Québec in 1666, Barbe was almost 22 years old and her father was a fairly well-to-do middle class bourgeois. Following the custom of that period, a marriage contract was drawn up by the Notary Royal Genaple on the afternoon of January 6, 1688. According to the document, the principals met in the home of Monsieur Jacques Chaplain, a cabinet-maker on the Place d'Armes, in Québec. There to witness this solemn engagement were:

_____Jean LeRouge, Royal Surveyer and Contractor;
_____Jacques Chaplain (the host);
_____Joseph Lemire, carpenter;
_____Charles Normand, son of Jean Normand, of La Canrdière;
_____Monsieur Métru, a court official;
_____André de Chaulme, tailor of the rue de la Montagne: 6

 And, of course, the bride's father, Toussaint Dubeau and his second bride, Anne Jousselot Dubeau. Louis Dupuis, on his part, agreed to take Barbe in marriage. Barbe brought to the union a legacy from her late mother7 which had been previously agreed to in a document dated January 28, 1687.

The contract goes on: 

…the same (Toussaint) Dubeau, wishing to reward his daughter for the services she has rendered him, and especially since the death of her mother8, gives as a free gift and in lieu of salary: a piece of land, of 20' frontage on the Place d'Armes in the Haute Ville, adjoining land on both sides belonging to the aforementioned Dubeau, and in depth up to the land belonging to Monsieur Talon.9

Naturally, Barbe was to bring with her all her personal clothing, her bed and linens. It was customary for the bridegroom to provide a marriage settlement in favor of his bride-to-be. Louis put forth the sum of 600 livres.10 And so, the witnesses signed the document and the solemn occasion was at an end.

 _____Twelve days later, on January 18, 1688, in the city of Québec, the 22 year old Barbe Dubeau and the 30 year old former soldier from Paris were united in marriage and received the blessing of the Church. Perhaps, as often was the case, their friends and relatives gathered at the home of Toussaint11 for a wedding feast. Afterwards there might have been singing dancing and festivities lasting into the small hours…and if relatives had come from far off settlements, the rejoicing could have continued for four or five days. Thus was to begin a relationship which would come to a sad ending almost nineteen years later but which would, despite its stormy existence, firmly plant the Dupuis family in Canada.

 Voyageurs des pays d'en haut

_____Louis and Barbe's marriage was but nine weeks old when he took the first step in a career which would carry him far from hearth and family. It has been said that the principal attractions which took Canadian men into the land of beavers were the passionate longing to travel and the taste for adventure rather than the desire for money.

_____As was the custom, Louis Dupuis and a certain Vivien Jean, 12 from Champlain, entered into an agreement to travel to Ottawa country to trade for beaver pelts. The agreement, signed before notary Gilles Rageot on the morning of March 12, 1688 in Québec, conformed to the usual contract:

…the parties have promised and have mutually obligated themselves to go and travel to the Ottawa country to trade with the Indians, sharing equally the expenses and profits… to leave next spring upon the reception of a license… from Monseigneur the Governor. 

The contracting parties would bring with them 500 livres in merchandise13 borrowed from local merchants who would, in addition to being repaid, share half the profits. Finally, Louis and Vivien agreed that in case of sickness the other partner would go alone and share with the sick member.

In case of death 

…the survivor promises and obligates himself that upon his return from the trip to give to the wife or heirs of the deceased, half of the profits… 

Ottawa Country

 _____The area of the Northern Great Lakes was inhabited by several Indian nations: the Beavers, Crees, Ottawas, refugee Hurons, Foxes and Illinois.14 Because the Ottawas were the first to trade with the French, the entire area was commonly referred to as Ottawa country. The region was rich in fur-bearing animals, especially the beaver whose pelts brought 4 livres a pound in Montreal.15

 _____The journey was long and arduous. The principal vehicle was the birch bark canoe which could travel some 40 miles a day. A typical journey might begin at Lachine, below Montreal, in order to avoid the rapids in the St. Lawrence, portage to the Ottawa river, down the Ottawa, portage to Lake Nipissing, through the North Channel to Lake Superior.16

 _____Three days after the first contract had been signed, Louis Dupuis figured in a rather complex agreement19 involving two prominent merchants from Québec city: François Poisset, Sieur de la Conche, 20 and his son-in-law Sieur Jacques DeFay. The Sieur Poisset was acting for both merchants in this agreement for his son-in-law was, according to the Notary's own words "absent from said city". Louis was joined in the contract by two other prospective voyageurs, Jospeh Guyon de Rouvray and Jacques dit LaFrance, both residents of Quebec.

 _____The contract seems to indicate that the two merchants had obtained and were turning over the trio of voyageurs a congé or license which would permit them to legally trade with the Indians for pelts. The congé issued by the Marquis de Denonville, Governor of New France, was dated February 24, 1688. It is interesting to note that no mention is made of Vivien Jean, Louis' first partner. In fact he is not named in any of the other documents preceding the launching of the journey. Had Jean decided not to make the journey? Had he been incapacitated by illness? At any rate he does not seem to have been a party to this expedition as of this date.

 _____The agreement went on to state that the merchants would equip the canoes to be used with the best merchandise, equal in quality to that used by other voyageurs. The sum of 1100 livres is mentioned as the amount that would be due to the Sieurs upon the return of the traders, plus half of the money from the sale of the pelts.

 _____A few weeks later, on April 8, another contract21 shows that Jospeh Guyon de Rouvray was unable to make the journey and Louis Dupuis and Joseph Ethier assumed the total responsibility for the merchandise and would share equally in the profits.

 _____The voyage, scheduled to begin in the spring of 1689, now began to take shape. Canoes had to be purchased, the traders equipped with rifles, food and trade goods. In addition, men had to be found who would work for the two partners. On April 27, 1688, in front of the notary, "were present Louis Dupuis dit Parisien and Joseph Goulet, inhabitant of Beaupré,22 who hired himself out to Louis for 250 livres to be paid when the expedition returned to Quebec. Again, on May 4, René Brisson, from Beaupré, is hired by Louis and Jacques Ethier to accompany them to the Ottawa country.23

 _____The preparations continued. On July 28, in Montreal, Louis Dupuis and Jacques Ethier became further indebted to one of their previously mentioned backers, the Sieur Poisset24 for 4,575 livres, 15 sols and 10 deniers which would be used in preparing for the expedition. The total sum of money invested or promised in this trading venture now exceeded 5,670 livres.

 _____A document drawn up before the notary Adhémar in Montréal on July 30 creates both new dimensions to this undertaking as well as some perplexing problems for the chronicler. The agreement linked Louis Dupuis with Nicolas Perrot25 whom we believe to have been the illustrious voyageur of the West. If our interpretation is correct, Louis agreed to hand over to Perrot his debts and rights to the licence to trade for furs alluded to previously. The practice of securing a respected member of the financial community to guarantee one's debts was not an uncommon practice in the 17th century. Was Louis Dupuis being pressed by his creditors? Were the preparations for the expedition going badly? Had Louis made unwise uses of the credit extended to him? Whatever may have been the situation, it would seem that Perrot was not securely a part of Louis' venture either as a partner or as a guarantor for this credit, or both! The sum of 1000 livres is mentioned but again, the undecipherability of the document26 makes it impossible to ascertain whether this sum was payment to be made by Dupuis to Perrot in exchange for his support or if the money was a further loan to Louis by the great voyageur.

_____On August 1, again before the Notary Adhémar, another agreement is concluded between Louis Dupuis , Nicolas Perrot and a Monsieur Catignon whereby 500 livres are turned over to Louis ostensibly also for the expedition.27 It is interesting to note that although the original date of the departure had been set for the spring of 1689, the later documents speak of a departure date of fall 1688.

Off to Michilimakinac

_____The all too brief Canadian summer was followed by autumn. If Louis Dupuis did in fact leave in the fall of the year, the make-up of the expedition was probably as follows: Louis Dupuis, Jacques Ethier, Joseph Goulet and René Brisson. There may well have been other voyageurs but we have no record of them. The trip was an extensive one -- in fact, the expedition went at least as far west as Michilimakinac.

_____Michilimakinac was the central point for all travel on the upper Great Lakes and for a vast extent of wilderness and half-settled country beyond until the arrival of the railroad.28 In 1683, a military garrison had been established to offer protection to the voyageurs. A village grew around the garrison but unlike the communities in Québec, this was a village of perpetual change with soldiers, missionaries, trappers and adventurers coming and going.29 At times, the population was even greater than Québec city. Jesuit missionaries wrote that Michilimakinac was a den of iniquity, <<with drinking and wenching with Indian women a common practice.30>> The churchmen also told of excessive gambling and the presence of prostitutes from Montréal. No doubt the traders and adventurers, far from the stabilizing influence of settled social existence fell easy prey to the temptations they found so readily available.

_____Meanwhile, Barbe Dubeau gave birth to their first child, Toussaint, on December 1, 1688. Whatever job existed in the Dupuis household was quickly extinguished when only 19 days later the infant died.31 Assuming that Louis was absent at the time, Barbe would have borne this sorrow alone but in a sense sharing it with so many early Canadian families who lost young children.

_____And so the long Canadian winter passed and the warm months of spring and summer followed. Louis and his fellow coureurs de bois returned to civilization. One a note dated August 1, 1689 32 wherein Monsieur Catignon acknowledges receipt of 500 livres from Louis in payment of a loan contracted a year before. The second is a document dated September 10, 1689 33 in which a certain François Guilbault dit Lalande acknowledged paying 24 livres to Louis which the former had borrowed some months before when they were both a Michilimakinac. Years later, during a process of separation, Louis' wide Barbe would tell the court that her husband had a long history of lending money to his friends without always receiving payment.

Soujourn in Québec

_____We lose the thread of Louis' life for a short time and pick it up again in January, 1690. If the trading expedition of the previous year had been successful, it could have been possible for Louis to live without seeking gainful employment.

_____On January 16, 1690, Louis and Barbe entered into an agreement34 with Robert Charet to lease a house in Québec. The rent for one year was agreed upon -- 180 livres, payable after certain alterations and repairs were completed. Despite what might at first appear to be a move on Louis' part to sink roots and become a settled husband, it is soon apparent that Barbe's influence was short-lived. 

_____On April 8, Louis entered into a contract35 in Québec, with one Julien LeLanc; and again, the following day36 another contract with Denis Constantin. The agreements were in connection with a proposed voyage during which the aforementioned gentlemen would assist Louis for the usual fees. 

_____A partnership was established two weeks later37 between Louis and Guillaume Hébert, a voyageur from Beaupré by which each man pledged to make a trip to the Ottawa country for beaver pelts and to divide the profits evenly. Although we cannot document it, it is conceivable that Louis left for another perhaps shorter expedition soon after this agreement.

 _____On August 15, 1690, a second son is born to the Dupuis'. This time the child is named for the father -- Louis junior.

 _____Louis is home by December. On the 29th of that month, before the notary Gilles Rageot,38 Louis and his father-in-law, Toussaint Dubeau, acknowledge their indebtedness to Louis Mercier for the sum of 272 livres, 13 sols, and 15 deniers. The official act is not clear, but apparently this debt is incurred by at least Toussaint in 1687 for an unspecified reason.

 _____The year 1691 was apparently one during which Louis stayed closer to his family. There are no records to indicate that any expeditions were either planned or executed. This was a period of great hardships for the Canadian colony. The stocks of provisions were exhausted by Iroquois attacks and ammunition was periously low. The savages were attacking trading routes thus restricting travel to the west. The settlement at Laprairie was attacked by an Anglo-Indian force from New York in August but was driven off by the defenders.39 These conditions may have prevented Louis Dupuis from undertaking any new expeditions to the Ottawa country. Between January and March, a daughter was born to Barbe and Louis and was baptised Marie-Madeleine.

 _____In August40 Louis appeared before the court of Judge Deschambault in Montréal. The case involved the allegation by Louis that a certain Léon Girard should be forced to pay him the sum of 64 livres. Apparently Girard was the administrator of the estate of the late Pierre Pérusseau, Sr. and his wife, Marie Roy Pérusseau. Their son, Pierre Pérusseau, Jr. had become indebted to Louis for the above sum and had died before repaying it. Louis Dupuis was seeking to force Girard to pay the debt from the estate of Pierre's parents. But let us follow the transcript of the trial: 

And the aforementioned Girard … after taking an oath, declared that he owed nothing to the late Pérusseau, son, and that it was to the aforementioned Marie Roy, his mother, captured by the Iroquois, that he was more or less obliged by the act drawn up before Mr. Antoine Adhémar, notary, … dated 30 October 1689, by which it was agreed that the said Girard would keep in his trust for three years years the sum of 525 livres41 

This sum was half of a total of 1,050 livres which Marie had acquired through the sale of a concession. The court ruled that the three year holding period was not yet completed and that it was not known whether Marie Roy was still a prisoner or dead. It further ruled that the heirs of Pierre Pérusseau Jr. had not been called to the court and should be present. Any further action was delayed and Girard was ordered not to pay Louis Dupuis from the funds entrusted to him. No further mention is made of this case or of its outcome in available documents.

 Another Expedition

 _____January 8, 1692 a fourth child, Angélique, is born to Barbe and Louis Dupuis in Québec city. Louis contined to make arrangements for yet another trading expedition scheduled for the spring of 1693.

 _____On Agust 6th 42 Mr. Poisset de la Conche, a merchant of Québec, loaned Louis Dupuis 477 livres to underwrite an expedition to the Ottawa country. Another agreement was drawn up on November 20th 43 whereby Mr. Defay, of Québec, a previously mentioned backed, loaded our intrepid trader 331 livres, 13 sols, 4 deniers in money and 83 livres, 2 sols in beaver pelts all to be repaid in one year's time

 _____From November 1692 to December 1693, a period of almost 14 months, there are no precise details concerning Louis' movements, but from the preceding documents we can safely assume that he did indeed undertake another extended trip into Indian country.

 _____For a short time at least, Louis was once again persuaded to stay closer to home. He and Honoré Martel entered into a contract44 on December 9, 1693 wherein they agreed to supply 1200 board feet of pine to the Intendant service of the King. The government promised to pay 1 sol for each board foot, the total amount of wood to be delivered before Mary 1694.45

 _____In Montréal on June 16, 1694,46 Louis and Jean Séguin, another voyageur, agreed to go to Michilimakinac or to Sault Ste-Marie for Madame Marie Nolan de Louvigny, the wife of Captain Louis de LaPorte de Louvigny,47 commander of the troops in the Ottawa Indian area. Although the document is not clear, we may assume that Dame de Louvigny wished to send either merchandise or money to her husband and in return helped the traders to organize a small expedition during which they would be able to trade for beaver pelts. If such were in fact the case, the voyage was of short duration since Louis was back in Montréal by the middle of September.

Before Magistrate Juchereau

 _____For the second time in three years, Louis Dupuis found himself before a magistrate's court.48 The date was September 16, 1694 and the Special Magistrate was the Sieur Juchereau:

Between Sieur Jean Malhiot, by the Sieur Poisset de Treuil, merchant of Quebec, having the rights ceded by the Sieur Defay, the plaintiff, that Louis Dupuis dit Parisien, be condemned to pay him 331 livres, 13 sols, 4 deniers in money and 83 livres, 2 sols in beaver pelts that he owes by virtue of his note of 20 September 1692 … The said Dupuis, the defendant, who said that he owes only 377 livres and that he justifies himself concerning the note of Sieur Defay that he gave to us, which sum he offers to pay according to the note of the 20th of September 1692 which reads in part: 'And then I will pay in the month of August next (year) or whenever the canoes arrive from the Ottawa country, to Mr. Defay, the sum of 331 livres, 13 sols, 4 deniers in money and also 83 livres, 2 sols in beaver pelts … without prejudice to other debts incurred for the said voyage to the Ottawas, and if there is found a note for 431 livres, 13 sols, 4 deniers made in 1692, it will be invalid! … Another note presented by the said Dupuis which says in part: 'I acknowledge that M. LaConche has provided for our community the remittance of 477 livres as it appears on the attached bill, which sum I promise to pay in money upon our return Made in Quebec, 6 July 1692'. 'From the 6th July 1692, for money received, the sum of 100 livres'.

Sir, you will remark that Sieur Dupuis made me a note, which is the one you have and which I ignore both the date and the sum … so I think that it is only necessary to concentrate on the note mentioned above and leave the other invalid …' Quebec, 19 August 1693, signed Defay. 

The Special Justice apparently concluded that the original note signed by Louis Dupuis for 477 livres was the only valid one and that he had in fact paid 100 livres on that account. The validity of that note seems to be attested to by the statement of the plaintiff, the Sieur Defay himself. Louis was therefore ordered to pay the sum of 377 livres plus court costs and interest amounting to 4 livres, 5 sols, and 8 deniers. This is another example of Louis' continuing financial difficulties, which would eventually lead to more serious consequences.

Back to Ottawa Country

 _____From the day following this court appearance till the end of June 1695, our voyageur threw himself into the organization of a rather large expedition. On September 17th he concluded an agreement before the Notary Bénigne Basset by which the Quebec merchant, François Hazeur, loaned him and two companions, Jean Pascal Prévost and Jean Séquin, 5,601 livres, 15 sols and 8 deniers to furnish whatever was necessary for a trip to the Northwest country.49

_____On the following day, in the presence of the same Notary: 

… were present Louis Dupuis dit Parisien, living ordinarily in Quebec but at present in this city, who has acknowledged and confessed being obligated to the Sieur François Hazeur, merchant and citizen of Quebec, now in this city, for the sum of 198 livres, 17 sols, 8 deniers, without prejudicing another debt concluded before this notary yesterday, for the payment of merchandise already delivered to him by the said creditor … payable next year for the voyage to the Ottawa country … 50

Although the date for the expedition had been set for September 1695, subsequent documentation and events would seem to indicate that Louis Dupuis and his partners did not leave as scheduled.51 

_____On February 17, 1695, in a document not now available,52 Louis' partners, Séquin and Prévost, apparently relinquished their involvement and turned over the leadership of the proposed voyage to Louis -- as well as the entire indebtedness --. Six days later53 Louis and his backer, the Sieur Hazeur, concluded an agreement which transferred the obligations and rights of the earlier contracts to him alone. 

_____On May 31, 1695, Louis54 hired two voyageurs, Philippe André and Joseph Lépine, from Beaupré, to accompany him to Ottawa country to trade for pelts. The hired men were to receive 300 and 350 livres respectively, payable one year from that date.

 _____In a complex contract dated June 6, 1695, in Montréal,55 Louis Dupuis and François Hazeur consolidated all of the trader's previous debts, including the one of 842 livres agreed to at some previous occasion. Other chroniclers have often mistaken this document as a simple loan for further funds when actually it merely brought many previous agreements into a single one. In addition, it reaffirmed the termination of the partnership previously mentioned and the assumption by Louis Dupuis of all debts and obligations and rights. Finally, as regards the price to be paid for the beaver pelts the document states that 

… (if) the Debtor (Dupuis) is lucky enough to make trade with the savages of the Ottawa country this summer and that if he can make the return trip or pay the said sum of 6,707 livres, 1 sol, 7 deniers, on the return in September of next year and earlier if possible, the Sieur Creditor (Hazeur) promises and obliges himself to pay him in the money of the country the sum of 20 livres for each 100 pound of beaver pelts ...56

Relative to the sum mentioned in the document, 6,707 livres, 1 sol and 7 deniers, this is a total of all previous debts incurred and agreed to for the preparation and organization of this particular expedition which no doubt was begun soon after this date.

 _____A fifth child, a son Jean,57 was born on September 30, 1695 at Québec. No sooner had Louis returned in the spring of 1696 than he commenced preparations for yet another trip borrowing 998 livres, 9 deniers from François Hazeur58 who had by now become his principal source of financial support. The intrepid coureur de bois left within a short time for another year in the wilderness. 

_____It was during this time that all permits, congés for coureurs de bois were cancelled by the government. Many traders continued to deal in beaver pelts illegally, bringing their furs to the Dutch at Albany or the French in the Louisiana territory. Many French-Canadian traders stayed away from home for even longer periods of time now because of the added burden of travelling to more distant trading posts.

 Further Wanderings

 _____On September 25, 1697 Louis entered into an agreement59 with François Hazeur, of Québec: 

… for the sum of 1,213 livres, 17 sols, 2 deniers to trade in Villemarie for merchandise to send him to the Ottawa country … 60 

Our adventurous trader once again was gone into Indian country to ply his profession -- and this time he was away from civilization for over two years, -- returning home sometime in 1700. It is during this brief séjour that the Dupuis family moved from Québec to Laprairie, a small settlement across the St. Lawrence from Montréal. It was also during this year that another child, Marguerite, was born. But her life span was to be short and she passed from this life in 1701, barely one year old.

 _____In 1702, Louis Dupuis was apparently home only long enough to sire another child born on November 1st, named Anne Hyacinthe.61 >From February 1702 to January 1705 Louis does not figure in any agreement or contract and we can speculate that he was gone for a large portion of the time.

 _____In January 1705 he is home again to sire his last child, Louise-Marguerite, who saw the light of day on October 26, 1705 in Laprairie.

 _____On September 27, 1705, Barbe Dupuis entered into an agreement62 to rent a home from Claude Charon but the document's undecipherability does not permit us to know any further details.

 _____Louis disappears from view until August 1706 when one of the most decisive events in his life would take place.

 
A Legal Separation

 _____It was Monday, the 24th of August 1706 when Barbe Dubeau Dupuis brought a petition before Jacquez Alexis de Fleury Deschambault, Lieutenant-General of the Royal Court of Montréal. The words of the document can best show the tragedy of the situation: 

Humbly beseeching, Barbe Dubeau, wife of Louis Dupuis, voyageur, residing ordinarily in Laprairie de la Magdelaine, points out to you that it has been 20 years since she contracted marriage with the said Dupuis to whom she brought a considerable amount of real goods (and) that since their marriage she has inherited from her late mother more than 400 livres and that in addition she has received from the estate of her father more than 400 livres and that she has also received from the sale of a piece of land in the city of Quebec which belonged to her by bequest … the total coming to 1,200 livres without counting the real goods mentioned, during which time the said Dupuis has undertaken many ill-advised voyages and has indebted himself without my knowledge and against my advice and respectful remonstrances, that she always gave him and in addition he has had too great a liberality with his money as regards other voyageurs or spending all or the major portion of the revenue from his voyages in taverns to the extent that today he finds himself indebted to many merchants for considerable sums and his family is reduced to the last extremity without funds and without any help, with five girls of a young age, and since it is no longer possible for her to live, all the more since the said Dupuis, her husband, who has just arrived during the last several days from Ottawa country where he had been for 3 years63 without anything and that he continues to act in his customary manner; that he does not wish to make any financial arrangement and that he is not able nor does he desire to remain at home for his family -- she, therefore, has recourse to you for the following: that you, your Honor, allow the plaintiff to have her husband, the said Dupuis, present himself before you as soon as possible, and that you order that she be separated from him as far as financial support is concerned; that she be allowed to pursue her own rights and that he be in contempt of court should he refuse and that he be forced to return her dowry and all other rights mentioned in their marriage contract and all that has come to them during their marriage and to furnish her and their children an adequate pension … 64 

There are be no doubt that Barbe was a long-suffering side and that this decision was not made without considerable difficulty. Accordingly, the magistrate set a hearing date for Friday, August 28th at 2:00 P.M. 

_____On Wednesday, the 26th of August, Le Pailleur, process-server for the Montréal court, served Louis Dupuis with a verbal subpoena, informing him of the deposition made by his wife and requiring him to appear in court on the 28th. Louis was not at his own home, but in the home of one Joseph Parent, a maker of edge-tools at 16 rue St.-Paul, in Montréal. Apparently Louis gave the process-server his own version of the difficulties existing between him and his wife, for soon after the court announced that witnesses would be required at the hearing. It is also interesting to observe that Louis was not in his own home! 

_____On the morning of the 28th, the same process-server informed François Picard dit LaRoche, a brewer, and Jean De Lalande, an English interpreter, that they had been subpoened as witnessed for Barbe Dubeau to appear that afternoon.

 _____On August 28th at 2:00 P.M. Barbe Dubeau, represented by her attorney, Mr. Lepailleur, appeared in the chambers of the Judge. Also present were the two witnesses and Louis Dupuis.

 _____First to be sworn and to testify was Jean De Lalande, an English interpreter, aged 43, living on rue Notre Dame, Ville Marie. After swearing that he was neither realted to Louis nor to Barbe, nor a servant of either, Mr. Lalande told his story: 

…it is almost 27 years that he has been acquainted with the said Dupuis (and affirms) that he is a man of great company, of menial condition and great expenses… passing entire weeks in reckless spending and he also affirmed that he knew that after the two last voyages that he made to the Ottawa country before this last one from which he has just returned, he had no sooner returned to this city that he pitched his camp in a cabaret and that he did not come out again until he had eaten (spent) all that he had brought with him, having no thought at all of going to his family nor providing them with any of the revenue from his voyage by which they could subsist, desiring more to spend it all in debauchery as he had always done before and since and finally that he is a bad provider, capable of spending above and beyond what he could afford…65 

The witness was duly thanked by the court and paid the customary fee of 15 sols.

 _____Next to appear was François Picard dit LaRoche, from Niort, a brewer, aged 36, living at the rue St-Paul in VilleMarie. He testified: 

That he knew the said Dupuis well and that he was a drunkard who drinks and eats everything in sight without paying any attention to saving (his money) for his family and also knowing that six years ago coming back from the Ottawa country to this city he brought with him 1,800 livres in profits from his voyage and that he went to the home of the wife of Laporte, the inn-keeper of this city, and had come out only when he had spent all the 1,800 livres and that since his arrival lately from the Ottawa country no day has passed that he did not drink wine and finally that he is a man capable of spending above what he can earn and incapable of correcting himself and never wasting any time when he returned, loving (always) debauchery as much as always …66

Louis Dupuis, when questioned by the court, acknowledged that both the witnesses were honest men and that he had nothing to add to the procedures. After a brief recess, at 4:00 P.M., Judge Deschambault rendered his verdict: 

… we have ordered and do order that the said Barbe Dubeau will be and will remain separated from her husband the said Dupuis, as to finances only and that to protect her rights to the goods of her marriage … 67 

And so, Louis and Barbe would be separated legally thus allowing Barbe to retain her inheritances against Louis' possible mismanagement. We must observe that for all practical purposes, the two parties were separated for years and seemed only together long enough to enlarge their family. Louis was further ordered to pay court costs amounting to 18 livres, 14 sols, 4 deniers. Now the last, albeit, slim ties with civilized living were rent, and the voyageur free to pursue his wanderings without thought of wide or family.

Toward the Sunset

 _____Our 48 year old voyageur, now legally free from family and domestic responsibilities, fades from view for four years. We can conjure up visions of this incurable adventurer loosing himself in the wilds of Ottawa country, seeking out the companionship of his fellow wanderers and of the Indians.

_____In 1709, his oldest daughter, Madeleine (1690-1739) married François Gagné-Daubigeon in Laprairie.68 There is no evidence to indicate that her father was present at either the marriage contract or the actual ceremony. In July of 1710, Barbe sold her home at the fort of Laprairie to the Pinsonneau brothers, François and Pierre, and apparently went to live with her children. We do not know which of her offspring took he in but certainly she was cared for by her own.

 _____Louis Dupuis makes one more appearance on September 27, 1710 when he signed an agreement69 borrowing 100 livres from a Monsieur de Menthet in Montréal. It is interesting to note that this brought the total amount of money borrowed by Louis to slightly over 17,500 livres. And then … oblivion! We have no way of knowing what actually happened to him during his final years but I suspect that he lived and died among the Indians and trappers with whom he had spent the greater part of his adult life.

 _____The end came sometime before February 1724, for on the 27th of that month his son, Jean, entered into a marriage contract with Catherine Tessier before the Notary Guillaume Barette. In that contract are the words défunt Louis Dupuis -- the late Louis Dupuis. He would have been at most 65 years old.

 _____There are no records of his death and no stone to mark his last resting place. He died in the wilderness which he loved so much and which drew him like the Sirens of old away from his wife, children and the restraints of settled society.

 _____On may 5, 1734, Barbe Dubeau Dupuis also passed to her Maker at the age of 68 in the village of Laprairie.

 _____Louis Dupuis dit le Parisien was, according to all indications, an impressive example of the typical coureur de bois. These hardy adventurers spent a great portion of their adult lives in the wilderness among the savages they traded with. Not only did they learn to employ the survival-methods of the Indians, but also their modes of behavior, character traits and attitudes toward life. They participated in their gluttonous feasts, drunken orgies and sexual promiscuities; 

… they acquired something of the Indian's stoical fatalism, his superstitions, his secrecy, and savagery in battle. When the triumphant war-parties returned, dragging their helpless prisoners, they saw and heard the unbelievable extreme horrors of cruelty.70  

It is not astonishing that they returned to civilization carrying the marks of their experiences. They had seen, heard and done too much to be the same kind of men. They were 

Irreverent, impatient of authority, extravagantly friendly and violently quarrelsome by turns -- they were spendthrifts who squandered their money in the taverns along the river bank and among the white and Indian prostitutes who were beginning to creep into Montréal …71 

If the Environmentalists are correct, one could not expect them to return unscathed -- their personalities altered to the point of becoming anti-social after having survived in a world which was violent, undisciplined and ridden with vice. Stronger men perhaps could have resisted, but these were, for the most part, weak and ordinary human beings.

 _____The government and Church officials both condemned these social outcasts repeatedly. Governor Denonville once remarked that: 

… the fur trade makes then indocile, debauched and incapable of discipline and turns them into pretended nobles, wearing the sword and decked out with care.72 

The Baron de Lahontan, a critic of the period, wrote: 

You would be amazed if you saw how lewd these Peddlars (coureurs) are when they return; how they Feast and Game, and how prodigal they are, not only in their clothes, but upon their women … for they lavish, eat, drink and play away as long as the Goods hold out; and when these are gone, they are forced to sell their lave and their clothes. This done, they are forced to go upon a new Voyage for subsistence.73 

Some few coureurs, like Radisson, Perrot, and Médard Chouart, Sieru des Groseilliers, became men of influence and their deeds are duly records in every history of the time. But most, like Louis Dupuis, were but members of a social-creation, unknown, unmourned, and little understood. 

_____One can imagine Louis Dupuis, like his fellow coureurs, dressed in buckskin clothes adorned with fringe, a long red knitted cap jauntily placed on his head, his feet covered with moccasins, a pipe clenched firmly in his teeth and his bearded face displaying a rakish smile as he sauntered down the streets in Montréal, oblivious to the disapproving glances of the local inhabitants. It brings to mind the words of the famous coureur de bois Radisson: 

____ We were Caesars, there being nobody to contradict us.74

_

WILLIAM O. DUPUIS
Boylston, Mass.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

AUGER, Roland J., Quebec Provincial Archives, Correspondence, 1964.

CREIGHTON, Donald, A History of Canada, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass., 1958

DOUVILLE, Raymond and DONAT-CASANOVA, Jacques, Daily Life in Early Canada, MacMillan Co., New York, N.Y., 1967.

JENKINS, Kathleen, Montreal, Doubleday Co., New York, N.Y., 1966.

KENTON, Edna, editor, Jesuit Relations, Vanguard Press, New York, N.Y., 1954

LANCTOT(?), Gustave, A History of Canada, Harvard University Press, Cambrdige, Mass., 1964, Volume II.

LEBOEUF, J.A., Complément au Dictionnaire Tanguay, Société Généalogique Canadienne Française, Montreal, P.Q., Canada.

Mémoires de la Société Généalogique Canadienne Française, "Les Deux Familles Dupuis de Laprairie", J. J. Leblanc, April-June 1966.

PARKMAN, Francis, The Battle for North America, J. Tebbel, editor.

Quebec Judicial Archives, Vital Records and Documents, Superior Court (Montreal and Quebec city) 1964-1970.

Rapport de l'Archiviste de la Province de Québec, 1929-1930, Quebec, P.Q., Canada

REPPLIER Agnes, Pere Marquette, Doubleday & Co., New York, N.Y., 1929.

SULTE, Benjamin, Histoire des Canadiens français, Wilson & Co., Publishers, Montreal, P.Q., 1882, 8 volumes.

TANGUAY, Cyprian, Dictionnaire Généalogique des Familles Canadiennes-Francaises, Volumes I and III.

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. Archives Nationales du Québec. Quebec (hereafter ANQQ.), Contrat de Marriage, Genaple, N.R., January 6, 1688, cahier V. È

  2. The vital documents of the church of St. Sulpice were partially destroyed during the French Revolution and many of the documents of the city of Paris perished in the fires which swept that city in May, 1871 È

  3. Histoire des Canadiens Français, Benjamin Sulte. È

  4. ANQQ, Genaple, N.R., January 6, 1688. È

  5. Mémoires de la Société Généalogique Canadienne-Française (hereafter MSGCF), Vol. XI, pp. 162ff. È

  6. Marriage Contract, N.R., Genaple, 6 January 1688. È

  7. Between Toussaint Dubeau et Pierre Dubeau, N.R. Rageot, 28 January 1687 È

  8. Marguerite Damy, Barbe's mother had died when Barbe was only 10 years old. È

  9. Op. Cit. N.R., Genaple, 6 January 1688. È

  10. It is almost impossible to accurately transfer the French money into modern currency. For our purposes let us take 35 cents as a base figure and equate it to one livre; 1 sol would equal 1 cent and 1 denier would equal 1/10 cent. The figure of 600 livres would then be equal to $150.00. Perhaps a more accurate method would be to show the buying power of the livre at this time. A cow was worth 30 livres , an ox 55 livres, a pig 6 livres, and a farm of 22 acres with buildings was worth 1200 livres (Daily life of early Canada, Raymond Douville & Jacques Donat Casanova). È

  11. According to the marriage contract, Louis' father, Guillaume was dead and his mother was still living in Paris. È

  12. Son of Vivien Jean and Suzanne Hérault, born ca. 1648 at Bourg d'Ecoyeaux, province of Saintonge; married a second time to Catherine Gateau, Quebec, November 29, 1671. È

  13. This merchandise usually included beads, trinkets, blankets, tobacco, tools, cloth and on occasion, alcoholic spirits. È

  14. Jesuit Relations, p. XLVI. È

  15. A beaver pelt weighed on the average 1¼ to 1½ pounds. È

  16. This particular route would be of about 2,000 kms; but journeys of only 300 kms were often sufficient to secure beaver pelts. The expedition being organized was apparently to be a rather long one which would lead Louis Dupuis to the mission of St. Ignace, often referred to as Michilimakinac, located south of the strait which linked lake Huron and lake Illionis (Michigan), not far from lake Superior, today Mackinac, Michigan, about 1245 miles from Quebec City. È

  17. --

  18. --

  19. François Genaple, Notary, March 15, 1688, Quebec. È

  20. Lived on the rue Notre-Dame, in the Basse-Ville of Quebec È

  21. ANQQ., Gilles Rageot, 8 April 1688. È

  22. ANQQ., Gilles Rageot, notary, 27 April 1688. È

  23. ANQQ., Genaple, Notary, May 4, 1688. È

  24. Archives Nationales du Québec, Montreal (hereafter ANQM) Adhémar, Notary, July 28, 1688. È

  25. Memoires, SGCF., vol. XVII, pp. 127-128. È

  26. ANQM., Adhémar, Notary, July 30, 1688. È

  27. The total sum of money mentioned so far is slightly over 7,000 livres. Whether or not all of this money was actually used is another question. È

  28. Jesuit Relations, pp. 327ff È

  29. Douville and Casanova, op. Cit., pp. 40ff È

  30. Jesuit Relations, pp. 327ff. È

  31. December 20, 1688, in Quebec. È

  32. ANQM., Adhémar, Notary, August 1, 1689 È

  33. ANQM., Hilaire Bourgine, Notary, September 10, 1689. È

  34. Genaple, Notary, January 16, 1690, Quebec. È

  35. Rageot, Notary, April 8, 1690, Quebec, no. 3994. È

  36. Rageot, Notary, April 9, 1690, Quebec, no. 3996. È

  37. Rageot, Notary April 23, 1690, Quebec, no. 4009. È

  38. Rageot, Notary, December 29, 1690, Quebec, no. 4149 È

  39. A History of Canada, Gustave Lactôt, Volume 2, pages 123ff. È

  40. ANQM., Registres des Audiences, August 21, 1691. È

  41. Ibid. È

  42. Document apparently lost. È

  43. Document apparently lost. È

  44. Genaple, Notary, Quebec, December 9, 1693. È

  45. The dimensions of the wood were as follows: 6,000 feet, 25 ft long x 1 ft x 1 thumb thick; 3,000 feet, 18' x 1' x 1 thumb thick; 3,000 feet, 23' x 1' x 1 thumb thick. È

  46. ANQM., Adhémar, Notary, 16 June 1694, number 2806. È

  47. Louis de la Porte de Louvigny. Following the Massacre at Lachine and the French peace parleys which had excluded the Nations of the West, the influence of the French in this area was greatly diminished. In fact, the Ottawas were contemplating a treaty with the Iroquois and the English. Louvigny was chosen to lead an expedition to the Michilimakinac region to prevent such an alliance. His appointment was vigorously opposed by some officials because he had a warehouse for furs in Quebec and traveled to his post with trading supplies in his baggage. He was however confirmed in the post of commander in May, 1690. In August, 1693, Louvigny returned to Montreal with 700 men and 1,000,000 pounds of beaver pelts. He returned to command the fort until he was relieved in 1694. He participated, as commander of the fort, in the illegal fur trade which led, in part, to the great surplus of pelts in 1697-98.

    It is interesting to note that attached to the document in question (Adhémar, number 2806), there is a brief note from Madame de Louvigny to an unknown person who we believe to be a nephew, since she signed it ta tante. It contains a wish that the nephew not hinder Louis and his companion and that she had given them 125 livres apparently in return for their assistance.
    È

  48. ANQM., Registres des Audiences, Juridiction de Montréal, 1693-1698, p. 159 È

  49. Document apparently lost. È

  50. ANQM., Bénigne Basset, Notary, September 18, 1695. È

  51. Several days later, in a document now lost, Louis Dupuis borrowed another 842 livres from the Sieur Hazeur. François Hazeur was one of Quebec's richest merchants who exported masts, staves and planks to France for ship-building. He established a fish-processing station at Kamouraska in 1708 which produced 100 barrels of porpoise oil worth 100 livres a barrel. He was a partner of Jean Bochart, Chevalier de Champigny, the Intendant, in many business ventures. È

  52. Document apparently lost. È

  53. Document apparently lost. È

  54. ANQM., Claude Maugue, Notary, May 31, 1695. È

  55. ANOM., Bénigne Basset, Notary, June 6, 1695. È

  56. Ibid. È

  57. A direct ancestor of the author; also a voyageur; married to Catherine Tessier (1701-1777) in 1724 in the La Prairie area. È

  58. Adhémar. Notary, Montreal, April 17, 1696. È

  59. Bénigne Basset, Notary, Montreal, September 25, 1697. È

  60. Ibid. È

  61. Died without issue, 1767 at St. Constant. È

  62. Antoine Adhémar, Notary, Montreal, September 25, 1705. È

  63. There seems to be a discrepancy in the reckoning of time of Louis' absence from home. The document mentions three years but he had to be home in early 1705 to sire his daughter. Two years may be closer to the actual time. È

  64. Archives Judiciaires de Montréal, Superior Court, August, 1706. È

  65. Ibid. È

  66. Ibid. È

  67. Ibid. È

  68. Memoires, SGCF., vol. XVII, no. 2, p. 91 È

  69. The document is apparently lost. È

  70. A History of Canada, Donald Creighton, page 83. È

  71. Ibid., page 82-83 È

  72. Ibid., page 83. È

  73. Ibid., page 82. È

  74. Ibid., page 82. È